Baltimore Police officer Wesley Cagle, was sentenced in the shooting of an unarmed man in December 2014. The judge sentenced Cagle to 12 years for the assault charge and 5 years for the handgun charge. (Kevin Richardson)
A judge sentenced a Baltimore police officer Friday to 12 years in prison for shooting an unarmed burglary suspect, citing irreparable harm to the victim and the community's trust in police.
Circuit Judge Wanda Keyes Heard said Wesley Cagle, 47, committed "an egregious violation" and failed to "serve and protect" when he shot Michael Johansen in December 2014.
Cagle, a 15-year-veteran of the force, was convicted in August of first-degree assault and a handgun charge for shooting Johansen in the groin as he lay in the doorway of an East Baltimore corner store after two other officers had already shot him.
Johansen testified that Cagle stood over him and called him a "piece of [expletive]" before shooting him.
Heard spoke of the comment during the sentencing, describing how Cagle did not refer to Johansen as a citizen as he lay on the ground, but "something that might be stuck on a person's shoe." She also pointed out that Johansen lost a large stretch of his intestines and part of his kidney as a result of the shooting.
Cagle's wife, son and boss at a landscaping company where he has worked for the past several months spoke on his behalf at the hearing, asking that he be spared any prison time.
Jacalyn Cagle spoke of how he was a loving husband and father to their 8-year-old child, as well as her two children from a previous marriage. She pleaded with the judge to allow him to return home, describing how she would struggle to raise their children alone.
"I need him, we need him to be home with us," she said, wiping away tears.
As she left the witness stand to return to her seat in the courtroom gallery, she gently rubbed her husband's forehead.
Cagle's oldest son, David, spoke about how his father regularly coached youth sports, including his soccer and basketball teams. The 23-year-old said he recently helped his father with coaching and recalled how excited the kids would get at practices.
David Cagle also recalled ride-alongs in his father's police cruiser, and how people in the neighborhood he patrolled would come up to the car to speak to his father about things like sports.
He fought back tears, pausing at times, as he read his statement. His father also wept, at one point removing his glasses to dry his face with tissues.
Cagle's attorneys, Chaz Ball and Joe Murtha, had asked the judge to give Cagle probation before judgment. But Heard said she was bound by the law to give the minimum five-year sentence for the handgun charge.
During the hearing, Ball said prison would be especially difficult for Cagle because he is a police officer. He would either be held in solitary confinement for his protection, or his safety would be at risk if he was placed in the general population, he said.
He said Cagle had already lost a career he loved, a job to support his family, and his pension.
Cagle earned $76,021.76 in 2015, according to a city database.
Cagle was one of several officers who were called to a corner store in the 3000 block of E. Monument St. the morning of Dec. 28, 2014. Johansen testified during the trial that he has long been addicted to heroin and planned to rob the store.
Two officers — Isiah Smith and Keven Leary — confronted Johansen and told him to show his hands, prosecutors said. When he didn't comply and instead reached toward his waist, they fired at him.
Johansen fell to the floor, his body partially inside of the store and his feet on the steps outside.
Cagle testified that he shot at Johansen because he saw a shiny object that could have been a weapon. But jurors told The Baltimore Sun after the verdict that they did not believe Cagle.
"If it weren't for his colleagues who broke the blue code of silence, we would not have been here right now today," she told reporters outside the courthouse following the sentencing. "Justice was served. He is now going to prison for 12 years. He abused the power, the trust, and the authority of that badge, and that's unacceptable."
Johansen did not attend the sentencing. He told The Baltimore Sun in 2015 that he did not want Cagle to go to prison.
"It'll probably mess with me a little bit if this man goes to prison because of me," he said in the interview.
Cagle was the first Baltimore officer to be charged in an on-duty shooting since 2008, when jurors acquitted Tommy Sanders III of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man.